11 / February 2016, Matt
In a now-famous Saturday Night Live sketch, Tom Brady and Fred Armisan demonstrated how to avoid sexual harassment claims in the workplace. After several incidents in which Armisan fared poorly and Brady did well, the sketch developed three rules for pursuing workplace romance without legal issues:
• Be Attractive
• Be Handsome
• Don’t Be Unattractive
While designed for laughs, this sketch may hit home for those running content marketing campaigns and feel the pressure of developing interesting copy. You need to generate new website content on a regular basis that is unique and relevant. This will help drive your page rankings as much as any other aspect of your campaign. But how do you develop new ideas over time that will continue to be interesting? Particularly when your primary business is not writing, this represents a real challenge. Keyword research can provide focal points, but at some point those keywords stop helping you generate entirely new ideas for articles and posts.
People obtain their news information from different media outlets, whether traditional television broadcasts, Comedy Central programming, morning radio, newspapers, Internet searches, or social media. We have more ways to stay informed than ever before, and different outlets tend to cater to different segments of the corporation—just as different kinds of businesses tend to cater to different demographic segments within their areas.
You can take advantage of the abundance of information by incorporating current events into your content. Is there a big local story that everyone seems to be following? Has a major sporting event just taken place? In the hands of a clever content writer, the news creates myriad potential article ideas every day. These work very well for blog posts in particular, as they serve up immediately interesting content situated in a cultural moment for your audience. You can potentially develop new ideas every day and never run out!
The spark of inspiration is important, but it does not give you everything you need. Your content still must relate back to your business, to your brand, to your reason for being. Current events can create the hook, but your post should still have an evergreen feel to it. The event that spurs you on will be fleeting; your business will endure. Your content should transition smoothly from the temporary to the permanent, carrying allusions throughout but relying on the work you do every day to be the main course after a current events appetizer. When you maneuver between the two, you can provide your audience with new, relevant material over and over again.
On the other hand, telling something so off the wall that most readers cannot relate to it creates its own problems. You do not want merely to amaze, but to bring readers into the experience you recreate for them. You want it to show not only that you are interesting in some objective way, but that the potential customers visiting your site should be specifically interested.
After you garner the attention and interest of your audience, connect your experience back to the business. Your story should lead to an understanding not only of who you are, but of why you are the best business owner or manager with whom each potential customer should do business.
Industry anecdotes serve two purposes: showing why doing things the right way in your industry matters to your audience, and demonstrating that you do so in ways that others might not. You are not in business to be just like everyone else, and industry news should never lead into a “we do this too” narrative.
On the other hand, your business anecdotes, while they may note activity by a particular bad actor, should be careful not to carve into the rest of the players in your industry. When you disparage too broadly, you risk isolating yourselves and bringing in retaliatory attacks from the market. This may not be an issue when you are a small fish among the sharks, but as you grow, you should be wary of potential negative attention you may attract.
One way to go about this is to describe a general trend in the market. Some companies may be approaching a problem or a market need in a particular way, creating widgets to help customers solve that problem. Your approach here may be to show why your widget is better, or to extol the service you provide as a differentiator among the widget providers. Alternatively, you may want to say that the widget is not a one size fits all solution, and that your local customers would do better with what you provide. In either case, you show your specific solution as superior to the general trend.
You can also approach from the opposite direction. If you provide something unique to the market, you are not responding to a trend, but rather leading your customers down a newer, better path. The market can be slow to create new solutions at times, and your service or product simply pushes through the inertia of a staid marketplace. Just as before, you use your analysis of the market, and your unique place in it, to drive your content marketing.
Similar to current events, pop culture moments can drive your marketing in ways to which your audience will respond enthusiastically. A new song that you hear all the time can feed your marketing content. A new movie (you may have seen a pun or 2,000 recently around The Force Awakens) that captures the public’s imagination can similarly lead you into a content idea.
The beauty of connecting your online marketing to pop culture is that your hook is one that already pulls people in. If a big act is performing in your local community, you can ride the wave of the resulting excitement into page views and interested readers. This accomplishes what for many is the hard part of creating content, and allows you to follow with information relevant and useful to an already engaged audience.
Two notes of caution in using pop culture references to inform your content. First, be careful of potential divisiveness. Some music stars inspire both adoration and scorn, depending on who is talking about them. A Miley Cyrus or a Justin Bieber, for example, carries an enormous fan following, but also inspires an irrational dislike in many people. You need to know your audience and understand how they may react to what you write. An emotional response often works in your favor, but do some research so you understand what the emotions might include.
Second, choose something that you care about. Writing something interesting becomes infinitely harder when you are not yourself interested. If you believe real music stops in the year 1978, do not write about a 2016 hot act just because you think others will want to read it. You need to create content that you are engaged in if you hope to engage others as well. Even if the pop culture moment serves only as an initial hook to a business post or article, you need to make it a hook that would bring you in too.
This need not be something as large as a new market move. Every day, you run a business and learn something new, experience something different, meet a new customer. The timeline events in your company’s life cycle are obvious, but the daily moments are what remind you of why you went into the business you are running. They provide the potential for personal connections with your customers and your content marketing audience in ways that the big events do not.
Politics provides some tricky, potentially treacherous ground for content marketing. When you come out supporting one candidate or party, your best case scenario has forty percent of the local population disagreeing vehemently with what you write. You may have a passion for a particular candidate or movement, but unless your market research shows a nearly unanimous agreement among your customer demographics, you should avoid such clear proclamations of your political leanings.
So how do you build content around politics? You can take note of what a candidate or group is doing well without endorsing that candidate. Bernie Sanders has built an impressive social media and grass roots campaign, whether you agree with his politics or not. Donald Trump has excited people in many ways, even though many find him offensive. If you tie a particular aspect of a political campaign to an idea or concept relevant to your business, you can avoid turning off your potential customers in this area.
Alternatively, you can address politics without going into specific candidates at all. Almost no one would disagree that politics are a divisive topic, or that finding ways to work together would result in more accomplishments and growth for the country. People disagree on the specifics of how to get there, but very few disagree with the value of finding common sense resolutions to political conflicts. Discussing the process itself for what it is and how it works (or does not work) can be particularly effective in a major election year.
An important concern in this area, perhaps more than in others, comes when you allow comments on your site. Political vitriol in comment threads comes after the most innocuous articles. When you use politics as your hook, this becomes ten times more prevalent. If you allow comments on your website, you should carefully moderate before posting live, to prevent comments that reflect poorly on your business image from polluting your site. This is true of any kind of thread, but becomes incredibly important when you raise politics yourself.
As always, your approach to this should focus on how the topic relates to your business goals and your content. Unless your business is political consulting, the subject of politics should serve only to illustrate the real content topic: something relevant to people who may purchase your products and services. Bring them in with a popular topic, but do so in a way that is open and honest about what it is. When you use this kind of topic to bring people in who just want to talk about that topic, you risk alienating readers and getting your site flagged as clickbait.
This category serves as a catch-all, because every business owner defines his or her passion differently. If you have free time, what do you do? Some people love sports, or fine art, or writing, or horseback riding. You may focus your energy on charities or politics or any one of an infinite array of possible pursuits. Your passion provides a critical piece of how you define yourself. Accordingly, it should also serve to inform the ways you present yourself to your present and future customers.
Building this into your content may seem difficult, but when you step back to look holistically at what you do and why, the picture clarifies. People start businesses to make money, but there are a million ways to make money, and almost every one of them is easier than running a business. You do what you do because you have something important to give the community. You drive yourself hard every day to succeed in this area because it is what matters to you. As an entrepreneur, you push yourself every day because there is nothing you would rather be doing to find your success. When you think of it in these terms, you realize that your passions in life and your passions in business are intimately intertwined. One informs the other within you, and your content marketing can and should reflect that.
When you work with a content marketing firm, that firm should take these ideas into account. You want to work with a partner who helps put your ideas and passions into words for you, who helps you present yourself to the world in a way that not only brings customers to you, but brings customers because of you. 1st in SEO listens first and creates content marketing that means something, not in the abstract, but in the world in which you live and work. Contact us today to get started.